Krugman: another masterpiece about that strange country he lives in

Fear Strikes Out, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times

The day before Sunday’s health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: “Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made … And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”

And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation. …

I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? …

And that cynicism has been the hallmark of the whole campaign against reform. … For the most part,… opponents of reform didn’t even pretend to engage with the reality either of the existing health care system or of the moderate, centrist plan — very close in outline to the reform Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts — that Democrats were proposing.

Instead, the emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.

It wasn’t just the death panel smear. It was racial hate-mongering, like a piece in Investor’s Business Daily declaring that health reform is “affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.” It was wild claims about abortion funding. It was the insistence that there is something tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health care will be available when they need it…

And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

Without question, the campaign of fear was effective… But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.

This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.

This entry was posted in Health, Politics - international. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

lol.I can’t wait for the next elections to see just what America’s soul says!

conrad
conrad
11 years ago

“I can’t wait for the next elections to see just what America’s soul says!”

Even if the Republicans win, I don’t see what they are going to do about it anyway — rescind it?

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

“lol.I can’t wait for the next elections to see just what America’s soul says!”

Well going by the history of post WW2 Western democracies, the public never votes to unwind improved access to healthcare – regardless of what’s being said about its long term cost.

You’ll note Patrick that the first big promise made by the UK Tories for the upcoming UK election was not to cut the NHS. See the first link on my first comment on the Evolution of Political Catch Phrases thread.

And speaking of America’s soul, about five months ago I was staying in the family compound of an old, distinguished and once proudly Republican Arizona family. But after Dubya, having a big chunk of the family trust funds wiped out during the GFC and now dealing with the family matriarch dying by increasingly expensive inches, they now cheerfully call themselves Obama republicans.

“This clusterfuck wouldn’t have happened under Clinton” one of the sons said. “Or under Barry” the matriarch croaked.

“Barry?” I asked.

“Yes Barry Goldwater. I dated him once. Nice man.” said this 80something matriarch who apparently insisted on being wheeled into a polling booth in 2008 just so she could vote for anyone but McCain, who lives about 20 minutes drive away (“Always was an aloof and grumpy bastard”), and Palin (“She’s an idiot!”).

Anyway an interesting insight into the American soul, old school Republican style.

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Jobs and industry are what America needs right now, everything else is Sideshow Alley.

How do you tax a man with empty hands and empty pockets? Is Obama intending to borrow money to pay his healthcare promises? I would not lend to him.

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

“How do you tax a man with empty hands and empty pockets? Is Obama intending to borrow money to pay his healthcare promises?”

So exactly what bit of his healthcare bill sets up a more expensive future than what the current arrangement will deliver?

Actually it’s not even a health care reform bill, it’s a health insurance reform bill.

Really Tel, you sound as ignorant yet as full as misplaced fury as the tea baggers railing against the Government takeover of Medicare.

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

Also

“jobs and industry are what America needs right now…”

That’s a private sector issue. Unless of course Tel you think the public sector should be creating jobs and industry.

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

“Unless of course Tel you think the public sector should be creating jobs and industry.”

Which it did from 1940 onwards by pumping several trillion dollars of taxpayer money into the defence-industrial complex. Which won WW2 but not many wars thereafter.

This is one example of US socialism you don’t hear many neo-con “drown the government in the bath tub” Babbits talking about.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

For those like Tel and Patrick who apparently feel compelled (seemingly on purely partisan grounds) to oppose Obama’s health plan irrespective of the facts, here are a few facts to ponder about the current US health care system (via Wikipedia):

Current estimates put U.S. health care spending at approximately 16% of GDP, second highest to East Timor (Timor-Leste) among all United Nations member nations.[7] The Health and Human Services Department expects that the health share of GDP will continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017.[33][34] Of each dollar spent on health care in the United States 31% goes to hospital care, 21% goes to physician services, 10% to pharmaceuticals, 8% to nursing homes, 7% to administrative costs, and 23% to all other categories (diagnostic laboratory services, pharmacies, medical device manufacturers, etc.[28]

The Office of the Actuary (OACT) of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publishes data on total health care spending in the United States, including both historical levels and future projections.[35] In 2007, the U.S. spent $2.26 trillion on health care, or $7,439 per person, up from $2.1 trillion, or $7,026 per capita, the previous year.[36] Spending in 2006 represented 16% of GDP, an increase of 6.7% over 2004 spending. Growth in spending is projected to average 6.7% annually over the period 2007 through 2017. A recently released report on the latest figures showed that the US spent $2.5 trillion, $8,047 per person, on health care in 2009 and that this amount represented 17.3% of the economy, up from 16.2% in 2008.[37] Health insurance costs are rising faster than wages or inflation, and medical causes were cited by about half of bankruptcy filers in the United States in 2001.[38]

The Congressional Budget Office has found that “about half of all growth in health care spending in the past several decades was associated with changes in medical care made possible by advances in technology.” Other factors included higher income levels, changes in insurance coverage, and rising prices.[39] Hospitals and physician spending take the largest share of the health care dollar, while prescription drugs take about 10 percent.[40] The use of prescription drugs is increasing among adults who have drug coverage.[41]

One analysis of international spending levels in the year 2000 found that while the U.S. spends more on health care than other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the use of health care services in the U.S. is below the OECD median by most measures. The authors of the study concluded that the prices paid for health care services are much higher in the U.S.[42]

Health care spending in the United States is concentrated. An analysis of the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found that the 1% of the population with the highest spending accounted for 27% of aggregate health care spending. The highest-spending 5% of the population accounted for more than half of all spending. These patterns were stable through the 1970s and 1980s, and some data suggest that they may have been typical of the mid-to-early 20th century as well.[43][44] One study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found significant persistence in the level of health care spending from year to year. Of the 1% of the population with the highest health care spending in 2002, 24.3% maintained their ranking in the top 1% in 2003. Of the 5% with the highest spending in 2002, 34% maintained that ranking in 2003. Individuals over age 45 were disproportionately represented among those who were in the top decile of spending for both years.[45]

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

I’m not opposing it necessarily, just wondering about America’s ‘soul’!

Actually, this could almost be a best of both worlds if the Republicans do get power on an anti-deficit movement, and use it to pass a bunch of sensible cost-focused amendments that Obama probably wanted in the first place.

Maybe a 5% chance of that happening.

Also, re Newt Gringrich(scroll down):
Editor’s Note: This column quotes Newt Gingrich as saying that “Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation, a quotation that originally appeared in the Washington Post. After this column was printed, The Post reported that Mr Gingrich said that his comment referred to Johnson’s Great Society programs, not the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

conrad
conrad
11 years ago

“Their record in the anti-deficit department is … iffy.”

And I imagine this will be made even worse if they are supposed to fund a health program they didn’t want to in the first place, as well as a stimulus package not introduced by them (and a war or three to make their supporter base happy).

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Yes, I guffawed when I read “… if the Republicans do get power on an anti-deficit movement . . .”

Ken already explained it to you, fiscal responsibility is a “purely partisan” ground now.